On getting over myself

A few years ago, my boss had me take the DISC test. It’s an assessment tool which centers on four distinct behavioral traits: dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance. In just eight to 12 short minutes, it can glean minute details about the test taker’s habits, characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s eerily accurate. My S (steadiness) was off the charts, and my D (dominance) might as well have been negative. I’m a coordinating supporter, the results said.

After I took it, my boss asked if there was anything in the 24-page writeup that I disagreed with, that didn’t seem quite right. Well, yes, there was something. “Emma usually is considerate, compassionate, and accepting of others,” it read, “however, on some occasions can become stubborn. Stubbornness surfaces when her ideals and beliefs are confronted.” No, I am not stubborn, I told myself. That is not true! I am never stubborn! No!


It turns out that—well—yes, I am. While I may not be as stubborn as they come, I have come to recognize my definitive stubborn streak. I’ve got plenty of deep-seated preferences, and persistent habits, and passionate beliefs. From my preferred gym atmosphere to my nighttime ritual to my thoughts on neighborly etiquette, I’m no pushover. And while I find great value in having strong ideals and well-cultivated habits and an acute sense of justice, stubbornness is not always a virtue. In fact, sometimes, I just need to get over myself.

I’m happy to say I’m making progress in this area. I’ve forgone my usual habit of journaling one page a night in my large, unruled lavender Moleskine notebook and have started using a (gasp!) smaller, black version with a ribbon to mark my place and an elastic closure to keep it shut. Some nights I’ll write two pages. Some nights I’ll write nothing. I’m slowly overcoming my long hatred (bred from largely from ignorance, to be perfectly honest) of the gym. I’ve even deigned to bring my earbuds a couple of times and listen to a podcast. And yes, I’ve used the treadmill. (Training) duty calls. I’ve stepped aside—to the left—for various distracted pedestrians on the sidewalk. Baby steps, people.

It’s true, I may still have a long way to go. Sometimes I’m baffled, really, when I try to understand these stubborn traits of mine. Where do they come from? Why am I sometimes so averse to change? For one, I’m attached to my image. Or rather, I’m attached to this fabricated image I just imagine I’m portraying. The image that I have this amazingly solid prayer life and great habits and an aversion to technology, that I’m always open to encountering others, even those that irk me, that I follow the rules. Perhaps it hearkens back to my days as a goody two shoes in school. Heck, maybe it’s only my own image of myself that I care so deeply about.

But then I think about that test I took. I think about the other 23 and a half pages of uncannily accurate descriptions. While I may be stubborn, I am also stable, steady, and consistent. While I may not like to budge on matters I hold dear, I am also trusting and optimistic. While I may hold fast to the rules to a fault, I am peaceful and agreeable and cooperative. My life as a pendulum goes on.

That’s what it comes down to, really. Getting over myself requires finding the happy medium, the virtue between two extremes. So often when I recognize a fault of mine, I am quick to overcorrect, to veer off that path onto its similarly imperfect opposite. The truth is, I take myself too seriously. That’s all there is to it.

It’s often a journey of fumbling, stumbling failure to reach that elusive middle. But what humility, humor, and joy there is to be found along the way.


How about you? Do you take yourself too seriously? Is there one way you’d really like to grow? Have you shared it with anyone?

p.s. In an effort to get over my “oh well I never post selfies because I am just so above that I mean really” image, well, here goes:

This is me in my “homeless hat,” as my sister calls it. Hooray for humility.




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